God IS with us. Always!

The Jordan River in Israel. A Land flowing with milk and honey is just on the other side. Photo by Rich Ronald.

Inheritance. Moses had been promising a Land flowing with milk and honey for 40 years. And now it’s ours! Somedays it’s truly hard to believe that we are actually here. Living in this inheritance hasn’t been easy. But it is so worth it.

Over and over again we were told that God would be with us as we entered the Promised Land. Forty years earlier, Moses sent an advance team to scout out the territory. They reported that there were giants in the Land and we’d be better off staying in the wilderness or going back to Egypt. But Caleb and I saw the beauty of the rolling hills, the fertile acreage, the amazing size of the crops and we were certain that Yahweh was blessing us…We were honestly dumbfounded that He would give us cities we didn’t have to build and allow us to eat from olive trees we didn’t plant. And now, we were the only two given the privilege to return.

First things first, we had to cross the Jordan River. While normally it flows lazily from Mount Hermon down to the Dead Sea, it was spring time, and the water had overflown its banks. It was time to see God’s amazing hand lead us as He had led our forefathers at the Red Sea.

The people nervously gathered by the water’s edge. We heard the Canaanites on the other side we’re confident the river would protect them as we moved from East to West, just south of Jericho. The Lord told me to put the priests out front and to have them carry the Ark of the Covenant. If God was going to be with us, His presence should lead the way.

With great fear, one by one and step by step the Levites waded into the rushing rapids… all while balancing the great Ark.  Honestly, I wasn’t so sure what would happen next as thousands of our people watched from the muddy banks of the Jordan. Would the priests slip and fall in? Would the Ark topple and get carried downstream by the current? But we had faith. We knew God hadn’t brought us this far to leave us stranded.

A miracle for our generation happened next! The water began to pile up, like it was splashing against an invisible dam. Some started shouting and praising God. “Look! It’s just like the Red Sea, Joshua!” I smiled as I thought of my parents being chased by Pharaoh, and then watched as my own children skipped across the dry river bed  holding their mother’s hand! 

Everyone was laughing; some were dancing!

We built a monument to the Lord in the middle of the river bed to remind generations after us of the great beginning to our crossing into the Promised Land.

We didn’t really know where we going or what to expect next. God continued to guide us and deliver us… There were victories at Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Lachish, and many others… 180 towns altogether west of the Jordan.

We’ve been living on the Land in peace for a long time now. All of the tribes of Israel have just gathered for a delightful and moving celebration at Shechem. I reminded the people of God’s faithfulness through the generations… how He has fought for us, just as He promised. Our enemies ran from us, not because of our swords or our military strength… for we are just wanderers… They fled because of God. Some tried to fight us, but God gave us the victories, just as He gave us the Land.  Oh, how He has kept every one of the promises He has ever made to His people! How sweet God’s inheritance has been to every one of us.

I may not be here much longer… but for however many days I have left… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!

 

The story of the people of God and their leader, Joshua, from the book of Joshua.

Do you ever feel like each new day is a brand new expedition, full of unknown diversions, diasters or battles with people you don’t even know? You wake up to new challenges that you didn’t expect to encounter? Today’s toddlers are achieving greater computer mastery than IBM executives in the 1950’s. Nothing is like it was. Everything is changing. It seems we live in a completely different world than just a decade ago. How do we find our way with daily, new unknowns?

God. It’s a simple answer, but it’s true. He is constant. And the same Holy Spirit that was with God in Genesis 1:1 at the creation of the world is with us today. As we follow the Spirit’s prompting, we receive God’s intended inheritance.

 Only those people who are led by God’s Spirit are his children. God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father. God’s Spirit makes us sure that we are his children. His Spirit lets us know that together with Christ we will be given what God has promised. We will also share in the glory of Christ, because we have suffered with him. (Romans 8:14-17 CEV).

No matter where we go, no matter whether we’ve been there before or not, no matter if it is a place of joy or a place of suffering, be assured of this: God is with us.

Even Jesus walked an uncharted path at least once… on the via Dolorosa… The Painful Way… the walk from the palace of Pontus Pilate to the Hill of the Skull. It was a walk He had not ever taken before. He knew the destination; He knew His Father in heaven was with Him. He knew it was part of His inheritance… but He had never been there. It was a place of suffering for His glory and our inheritance.

Open up your hands and receive His inheritance today!

 

(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.

 

 

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When we worship, God fights on our behalf!

When the Shofars blew, the enemy was defeated and the walls fell down.

When the Shofars blew, the enemy was defeated and the walls fell down.

The story of Joshua and the fall of the walls at Jericho.

I’m a minister in the Tabernacle, a priest. My grandfather was Aaron. My name is Phineas. I was born in the Wilderness. Growing up we heard great stories of God. How He was with our people during the Exodus. How He parted the Red Sea. How He gave Moses the Law. But, honestly, we feel more like nomads instead of a “chosen people.” We are a people without a homeland.

That all changed recently, however. We’ve just entered the Promised Land. What an experience! Moses died a couple of months ago and had appointed Joshua to take us into this place that flows with milk and honey.  We had all just been consecrated to the Lord and it was the end of Passover. Joshua told us to get ready for a great battle, and that God Himself would be the Captain of our Army!

Yes, we’ve conquered a few lands east of the Jordan, but, we all grew up in the Wilderness. We’re learning to be warriors, but we are mostly shepherds. Except for the 40,000 trained soldiers from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.

God has gone before us. God has defeated our enemies. I’m thankful Joshua knew what to do, although, I’m certain it’s not the way other armies would do battle. He says that God kept telling him to “be strong and courageous.” Looking back, I can see why.

Just ten days ago we crossed the Jordan River on dry ground as our ancestors had crossed the Red Sea. I was fortunate to be chosen as one of priests who blew the ram’s horn, with the procession of the Ark of the Covenant. It was amazing! This rushing, flowing river, stopped immediately as our feet entered the water. It was our generation’s miracle. And everyone crossed on dry land.

We were camped just outside the fortress city of Jericho. It was going to be our first stop – and our first conquest — in this New Land. God told us this land was now ours, all we had to do was go and get it. “Go and get it?” But, by force. As in, a battle? Some of us would probably die.

Joshua, our Commander, lined us all up… 600,000 men, plus the women and children.  The strategy was to surround the city of Jericho with people. It was only about a half a mile around, so that meant that the line only needed to be a half mile long.  Picture this: each row was 1,000 people wide, shoulder to shoulder.  The line was almost half a mile wide!  And guess who was at the front? I was. Yep! This huge mass of people. And at the very front, an armed guard. Then all of us priests. Some of us were part of the worshippers, blowing the Shofar. Other’s carried the Ark.  Joshua put my people up front! As I said, we are of the tribe of Aaron. My work in the tabernacle is to blow the trumpets and encourage all of the children of Israel to gather together in singing praises to the Almighty. When we heard the news that Joshua would put us up front, I must admit, I was frightened and worried. I’m not a student of battle strategy, but I kept wondering, “don’t those who lead up front get killed first?”

It was early in the week and we marched, over a million pairs of feet, around these massive city walls. The line was so immense, when those of us in the front had finished the circle, we met those from the back of the line who were just getting started. We had fully surrounded the city.  I’m sure the people inside Jericho were confused at our actions. We had heard they were afraid of us before we ever got here. Many wondered why we didn’t just attack the citadel once we had it surrounded.  But we listened and followed Joshua. He kept telling us of this face-to-face meeting he had with the one he called “The Captain.” How God said that He would go before us into battle. That He promised the victory! All we, the descendants of Aaron, were to do was lead the people in worship and walk around the city.

Once we had circled back around to where we began, we went back to our encampment and spent the night there. Early the next morning we did the same thing we did the day before.

And this continued. Day 3. Day 4. There was no one visible any longer on the city ramparts. We guessed they were filled with great fear by now. And we, soldiers in training, were looking for a fight.  And yet, we weren’t fighters.

Day 5. Day 6. “Forgive me, Joshua, but what’s the strategy here?”

Day 7. Would today be just another of the same thing? “No. Today would be different,” Joshua told us. We lined up as usual, but today the march would be quiet. Only the priests were to blow their shofars. No noise from any of the rest of the people of Israel. When we concluded our trip around Jericho, Joshua ordered us to go around again. And again. And again. This was taking all day and we were tired! Something big was about to happen. Our heart rates increased. There was lots of nervous energy. Finally, as we concluded the seventh circuit Joshua told us to blow the ram’s horns with all our might. And he told the people to shout! To scream. To cry out to God. To worship! Previously it was ominously quiet. Now, it was raucous! The din of the shouts of praise to the Almighty was deafening.

And then the ground underneath our feet began to shake, and the dust began to boil. The walls of the city shook as first one stone, then another fell from its mooring in the rock. Our people shouted louder and louder. We sang “Hallelujah!” to our King! We blew the trumpets until our cheeks hurt and we were spitting everywhere. And in a matter of seconds the city walls came crashing down. Waves of dust and dirt blew everywhere with great force. We were covered from head to toe. But the walls, the walls, they fell in a manner as to make ramps up into the city. Our brave soldiers charged forward and destroyed everything and everyone, except for one lone family who had sheltered some of our advanced spies earlier in the week.

It’s truly amazing what God did as we obeyed and worshipped Him. He assured us He would fight on our behalf. And oh, how He did! It was His victory as we worshipped and entered the Promised Land with shouts of great joy!

My interpretation of Joshua, Chapters 1-6.

(c) 2015 Rich Ronald.

The Secret to Success?

The secret to success? Meditate. Study. Read. The Word of God.

The secret to success? Meditate. Study. Read. The Word of God.

When I was in high school, a speaker at a conference I attended asked, “Do you want to be successful? I know the secret to guarantee your success!”

Like many teens at that stage of life I had one foot that was finishing 12 years of education and my second foot in the “almost-an-adult” world of college. I had plans. I had dreams. I had a career picked out and I couldn’t wait to get there. So of course, the speaker’s question piqued my interest.

He then began to unveil this great mystery by reading a passage of Joshua, from the Bible. The words of the LORD to the new, young captain of the army of God.

No one will be able to defeat you all your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forget you. Joshua, be strong and brave! You must lead these people so they can take the land that I promised their fathers I would give them.  Be strong and brave. Be sure to obey all the teachings my servant Moses gave you. If you follow them exactly, you will be successful in everything you do. Always remember what is written in the Book of the Teachings. Study it day and night to be sure to obey everything that is written there. If you do this, you will be wise and successful in everything.” Joshua 1:5-8 (NCV)

Remember. Follow. Study. Obey. If you follow, if you do this, you will be successful.

What a great promise from God!

Another version says to “meditate” on God’s word. It can mean to pour yourself into it night and day. Listen to the wisdom in the Bible.  And then, follow it. This week our pastor told us the Greek word for meditate is “logizomai.” The root of the English word “logic.” He suggested that when we meditate on God’s word, we are thinking clearly, logically, about what it means to us. And it’s the stongest way to fend off anxiety.

Whenever I have found myself in seasons of challenge, times of confusion or wonder, I go back to the Bible to study and hear first-hand what God’s instructions are. I’m a verbal processor, so not only do I read it and think about it, I will often read it out loud to myself so that I can fully grasp it.  I may even write the words down in a journal or write out what I perceive God wants me to know about Him through those words. Then, with the Holy Spirit as my guide and the One who gives boldness and courage, I do my best to follow. And God has granted success every time!

Have there been times of trial? Absolutely. For example, I’ve had 22 jobs in the last 34 years. But God has been faithful to me through it all. Why? By His grace I believe it’s because I have done my best to be a student of His word. To read it. To learn it. To teach it. To model it. To meditate on it day and night. I’m so thankful for His promises and the truth that is revealed on page after page of the Text.

It brings comfort. It brings wisdom. It brings understanding.

Have I lived a “successful” life? In the world’s eyes, probably not. My bank account is not overflowing. I don’t live in luxury.

But in God’s eyes? The eyes that matter most to me? Yes, absolutely. I am successful because I am walking every day under His umbrella of true grace, true forgiveness and true joy!

And that’s a secret He calls me, and all of us, to share with the world.

(c) 2015 Rich Ronald

Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Joshua

A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.

JOSHUA

He is the great warrior.  A protégé of Moses.  He was one of the 12 spies that Moses sent out to scout out the Promised Land.  He and Caleb were the only two who told the truth about the giants.  Only he and Caleb believed that God was bigger than the giants and would indeed give them the Land.  And so, Joshua and Caleb were the only two, of all the Hebrew people who left Egypt at the Exodus, they were the only two who were permitted to enter the Promised Land.  All the other men and women and children who left Egypt with Moses died in the wilderness.

And Joshua is appointed by Moses to lead the people into the Land for he was a capable military commander. He also became a strong spiritual leader.

Joshua’s story is told throughout the 24 chapters of the Old Testament book that bears his name.  There are numerous stories of his faithful belief in God.

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